WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- It's starting to feel like winter again here in the DC metro. The season can be especially challenging for people with certain chronic illnesses, like diabetes.
Michael Thompson of Rockville was diagnosed four years ago with type 2 diabetes.
Thompson says, "Winter is a tougher season, it's tougher because of the winter blues. The tendency to want to stay inside and not exercise."
Irene Myers-Thompson, Wellness Director for UnitedHealthcare of the Mid-Atlantic, says the tendency to hibernate when it's cold outside is especially detrimental for people managing diabetes. Exercise is important, and she tells her clients to invest in a pair of walking shoes that are specifically fitted for their feet. Also, get outside and exercise as a family and look into joining community-based fitness centers, like the YMCA, instead of large intimidating gyms.
Myers-Thompson says, "If you have an opportunity to go to a store where you can get fitted for shoes, literally they look at your gait analysis.
"If your feet are happy, you are going to want to go farther and walk farther.", adds Myers-Thompson.
She also says well-fitted shoes and warm layers are important because people with diabetes tend to have a loss of feeling and poor circulation in their hands and feet. Experts call this neuropathy. This condition is more intense for Michael Thompson in the winter.
Thompson says, "My hands and my feet, I can feel a sort of pins and needles, like when you are out in the cold and snow and you really don't have a sensation."
Other seasonal tips that apply to everyone, stay hydrated with water, limit alcoholic drinks, and get plenty of sleep. People tend to drink less water in the winter and more warm drinks like cocoa or coffee. So hydration becomes an issue. Also, there is a tendency to drink more alcohol in the winter since people are indoors, leading to an uptick in consumption of empty calories.
Nearly 26 million Americans are living with diabetes. Researchers estimate that more than 27 percent of adults living with type 2 diabetes are unaware of their condition.